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Delivering COVID-19 vaccines to Airmen overseas

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Samuel Swanson
  • 618 AOC

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 50,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses and over 500 associated kits have been delivered to Airmen overseas under the expert care of the 618th Air Operations Center. 

“We are taking an aggressive approach to protect our service members, their families and their communities from COVID-19 and the highly transmissible Delta variant,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force, Gina Ortiz Jones. “As members of the nation’s Armed Forces, our Airmen and Guardians must be able to respond to situations around the globe—being fully vaccinated will help us safely meet the readiness requirements that our national security depends on.”

Airmen serving in remote locations present unique logistical challenges in regards to the rapid delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and test kits. In order to remain viable, vaccine doses must be transported at frozen or refrigerated temperatures using a portable freezer, refrigerator unit, or a container qualified to maintain the recommended temperatures. Such precise conditions require expert planning and movement oversight to ensure that the doses that arrive are safe and ready-to-use. 

Drawing on its 30 year history of supporting global mobility operations, the AOC has taken a lead role when directing the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine doses and associated kits to Airmen operating in remote locations. Over 900 total force personnel are currently assigned to the 618 AOC, headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, IL, who, together, specialize in the delivery of specialized cargo in hard-to-reach places. As a result of the AOC's logistical leadership, tens of thousands of vaccines quickly made their way into the hands of medical professionals downrange, helping to ensure the health and safety of our global warfighters. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued formal licensure of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, now called Comirnaty, on August 23, 2021. This licensure is based on rigorous studies and efficacy and safety data collected during use over the past year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and recommend that all persons get COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible.

As of September 28, 2021, the Air Force has reported over 70,000 total COVID-19 cases among Department of the Air Force personnel, of which 56 have resulted in hospitalization and 125 in death. With nearly 95% of its active duty force either fully or partially vaccinated against the virus, Airmen are demonstrating their resilience to infection and hospitalization thanks, in-part, to the rapid logistical support provided by the 618 AOC.